Mark-Anthony Turnage Premiere and Beethoven's Ninth

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

New York Philharmonic Music Director Alan Gilbert conducts the orchestra in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 and the U.S. premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Frieze, which was written in response to Beethoven’s Ninth and co-commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Society, New York Philharmonic, and BBC Radio 3.

This program highlights connections that the Royal Philharmonic Society and the New York Philharmonic share with the Ninth Symphony: the RPS commissioned the work in 1817, and the New York Philharmonic gave its U.S. premiere in 1846, for which it commissioned the first English translation of “Ode to Joy.”

Program details:

Mark-Anthony Turnage: Frieze (U.S. premiere, New York Philharmonic co-commission with the Royal Philharmonic Society and BBC Radio 3)

Beethoven: Symphony No. 9

Comments [1]

Les from Miami, Florida

The Turnage piece is fluent, focused and easy to listen to at first hearing. It flows and has a coherence. The orchestration and interplay of sonorities are well thought-out; and it's a work worth hearing more than once and getting to know. Mr. Gilbert is a musician who approaches the music he conducts as if for the first time and gives much thought to his realizations; and never is this more in evidence as in this performance of the Ninth Symphony. He is, I think, one who does not follow "tradition" for its own sake. The First Movement had elemental power and remained at the same tempo except for the Coda (starting with the chromatic passages in the bassoons, 'cellos and contrabasses) until resuming the original tempo at the fortissimo octaves in the strings (four bars before Letter S in the Kalmus edition). The second ending was taken in the Second Movement; and the timpani in the "ritmo di tre battuta" accented all three of the motto notes equally rather than the first written with an accent and the following two at a lower dynamic.
The Third Movement modulation to D flat was at an appropriate loud dynamic, but what struck me with wonderment and revelation was the second violins' anapests at the same dynamic, although pp (pianissimo) is written. This italicized the same motive in the preceding two bars to an extent I didn't realize before. The Fourth Movement rendered glorious choral sonority throughout and brilliance in the brass at the first fortissimo "Ode to Joy" at Letter B. For me, the triangle, cymbal and bass drum could have been louder at the "Alla marcia" (tenor solo) section as well as at the end "Prestissimo". The woodwinds were balanced and sang gloriously throughout the entire Symphony. The traditional appogiatura on the solo bass's introductory phrase "to"ne" of G to F was replaced with the literal F F. Most startling and arresting to me was the 'cello and contrabass recitative that Beethoven wrote in French as being "in the character of a recitative, but in tempo", nine bars from the beginning of the movement. It was played in strict tempo with no nuance: the first time I've heard it played that way and was thus shocking to hear it played in that manner. I Beethoven's statement is contradictory, and there's the rub, but Mr. Gilbert has the courage of his convictions to have asked that it to be played "in tempo", which it most certainly was. I thought the soloists blended well but lacked individuality. All in all, the performance was as thought-provoking in the editorial decisions made as it was in the precision and mastery of its articulation by one and all. This concert bears repeated listening.

Oct. 27 2013 03:18 PM

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